Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Xmas Movie Marathon 2007

It's become a tradition for D and me to do an all-day movie marathon on December 25th each year. So yesterday, we stayed at the AMC Mercado 20 for thirteen hours and watched five movies:

Sweeney Todd
Juno
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Charlie Wilson's War

Of those, National Treasure was the weakest, though I wouldn't say it was downright bad. It didn't pretend to be anything more than what it was: a bombastic spectacle, made up of increasingly ludicrous action scenes lubricated by increasingly gratuitous historical name-dropping. The ending practically beats you over the head with the setup for another sequel, but I'm not sure how much more early American chronology they can exploit before it just becomes too silly.

Walk Hard was broader than I expected, but absolutely hilarious with moments of pure genius. The scene with the Beatles--in India--is alone worth the price of admission. On the other hand, Sweeney Todd was actually less manic than most of Tim Burton's other films, though it is unrelentingly Gothic. In a good way. With song and dance!

Charlie Wilson's War was very good, though it suffers from the montage/time-compression problem endemic to "based on a true story" movies (and which Walk Hard lampoons brilliantly). And I predict Julia Roberts' wig will receive a well-deserved Razzie nomination, if not a win.

The best of the bunch, Juno, was simply amazing. Ellen Page, who was quite possibly the best thing in X-Men: The Last Stand, really hits it out of the park here, but there's not a single bad cast member. The screenplay is sharp, and Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) totally spanks his old man in the film-directing department.

Other qualities of note:

It's a close call, but Walk Hard beats Juno by a nose for being most quotable (especially out of context). "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly... obvious."

Charlie Wilson's War has the funniest single scene, a signature Aaron Sorkin character-juggling merry-go-round during the titular Congressman's first meeting with the scruffy CIA operative played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Charlie Wilson's War also features the single creepiest sound effect. No spoilers here, but listen very carefully during the party scene at the end, when Gust hands Charlie the memo about Kandahar.

Best music is a three-way tie: Sondheim's score for Sweeney Todd is bulletproof, but not all the actors are great singers; Walk Hard parodies a variety of musical styles very well, but by the same token, can't be totally original; and Juno has the perfect soundtrack for its quirky tone, but it's a very particular style.

One last thing: We had to sit through that stupid National Guard music video five times, and I can say conclusively that it doesn't make any goddamn sense at all.

We're in LA for the next few days, visiting my family, which means we'll get the chance to see more movies--some, like The Savages, which weren't showing near Mountain View, and others, like There Will Be Blood, which hadn't opened yet. I'm also looking forward to checking out the ArcLight and the Landmark at Westside, to see how they compare with Cinetopia.

Hooray for Hollywood!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Watch Your Language

It probably says a lot about me that one of my favorite podcasts is Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. That, plus the fact that I took the time to double-check whether "for" should be capitalized in that title.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (a gift from my lovely wife) and was tickled when Loren, an occasional contributor to this blog, forwarded an email titled "Pro-Serial Comma" from one of his co-workers.

Earlier this week, at my own workplace, a message went around about "The biggest typo in history." As usually happens on mailing lists, someone was delighted that anybody else actually read Language Log, and others followed up with their own favorite language-related sites, including:
As if I don't already have enough blogs to follow.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ich bin ein bassist?

It may just be a faulty translation, but I'm amused that the Vanksen|Culture-buzz blog calls me a "bassist" for The Richter Scales. The post is, of course, about our wildly popular "Here Comes Another Bubble" music video--over 600,000 views on YouTube and counting!

In other news, my friend Jeff bemoans the similarity of his name to many others on LinkedIn. This inspired me to do a Google search for my own name, which showed up on a list of Sergey Brin's favorite books. Who knew?

The "professional 'headline'" on my LinkedIn profile is Polymath. I didn't choose that just to use obscure teminology, or to show off my vocabulary; it really is what I aspire to be. And none of the possible synonyms has the right connotation: "Renaissance Man" is a bit of a cliche thanks to overuse, and the even more esoteric "Homo universalis" is just asking for a beatdown.

I will be the first to admit that I'm not the best at anything I do. I'm not the best singer in the Richter Scales; I'm not the best writer in any forum; I'm not the best programmer at work. But I will argue that I am more well-rounded than many other people--and the distinction is that I don't just like a lot of different things, I do a lot of different things.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Richter Scales sing "Here Comes Another Bubble"

(EDIT 2007-12-20: replaced old video with new and improved version 1.1!)

It seems like everyone and his dog have already blogged about our music video, but just in case you missed it:



And, if you enjoyed that:
  1. Tell all your friends.
  2. Check out our previous music video, "Fine Line: Sub-Prime Decline."
  3. Visit our web site to hear more songs.
  4. Buy our CD, We Hate A Cappella.
  5. Come to our holiday concert next Friday.
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat!